Call it one of the friendlist and sparkling events ever held by Canadian Slovaks at the Slovak Embassy in Ottawa, or call it one of the sad ones. Milan Kollar has come to the end of his term as Ambassador of the Slovak Republic in Canada. Slovaks from all over Canada were at the Embassy on Friday, June 13, to say goodbye. That was to tell him and wife how much we appreciated their work here, and how sad we feel that we could not have him for another term. And to congratulate him for the onward and upward rise in Slovakia's relations and reputation in Canada because of his efforts.
In a farewell speech, His Excellency remarked how much he and his wife Sona enjoyed working here, and with an Embassy staff which he praised as exceptionally competent. He will be working for possibly the next three years in the Human Dimensions section of Slovak Foreign Affairs.
After the ceremonial and giftgiving talks speechss, in the audience the words "the best ambassador we've had"; "best ever for us Canadian Slovaks and for Canada", "great at everything he did" ... and similar sentiments kept coming up. They no doubt will be present edexactly as spoken, and by whom, on Ottawa's monthly 'Slovak Spectrum' television program. Many of those who came from Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and other cities passed along personal gifts to the Ambassador and his wife.
A main official gift was from the Ottawa branch of the Canadian Slovak League. The branch president, Prof. Marian Stolarik of the University of Ottawa, gave him a painting by Ottawa's well-known prolific artist Emil Purgina.
Among the most innovative and popular works that the Kollar regime invented were regular exhibits at the Embassy by Canadian Slovak sculptors, painters, ceramicists, fashionclothing designers, and any other talented people. At one that showed the works of Mr. Purgina, the Ambassador remarked how much he admired a certain painting and how he would have liked to own it. That inspired Ottawa's Slovak League branch to make his wish come true.
Montreal's League branch, along with the St. Cyril and Method Church, had presented gifts a few weeks ago at a party in their parish. The parish gave his Excellency a 99.99% pure silver coin from the Royal Canadian Mint, emblazoned with a Polar Bear (now an endangered species), and gave Mrs. Kollar a bouquet of red roses.
Lydia Matusky, the president of the of the Montreal League branch, gave an Inuit carving. Both were mementos of Canada, and in gratitude for the Ambasador's ever-willing and tireless support of the Montreal Community, especially his help for the parish.
His Excellency was noted not just for his closeness to the Slovak Community, but also for greatly advancing Slovakia's relations with Canadian governments and Canadian businesses. In the past year, a large delegation of Slovak industrialists and businessmen came to Canada for meetings in major cities with major industries, and possible sales and purchases between our countries.
More recently, Peter Burian, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, toured businesses and governments in Canada. He was once Slovakia's Ambassador to the United States; Slovakia's Representative to the United Nations, and head of Slovakia's Delegation to NATO in Brussels.
Only within our regrettably-gone Ambassador's term has anyone so high up in world commercial and political affairs made these kinds of connections for Slovakia in Canada.
Text: Jan (George) Frajkor, Photos: Tibor Dej